A Look at Employee Training Two Years into a Global Pandemic

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On January 7, 2020, health officials identified a new virus responsible for an unusual pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Just over two months later, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic. This virus was named SARS-CoV-2 but is commonly known as COVID-19 or coronavirus.

Now, more than two years later, much of the American workforce has settled into their new normal, whether that be working fully remotely, utilizing a hybrid role between the office and working from home, or back at their normal jobsite but perhaps with some social distancing guidelines in place.

Now more than ever, employers are implementing online training strategies to ensure their entire workforce is caught up on regulatory training requirements, while also utilizing the technology to teach employees new skills and address workplace safety concerns.

Mobile Training Is Easier Than Ever

Conducting employee training is one of the most important things any organization can do. New employees need to be trained on processes and procedures that may be unfamiliar to them, while all employees must stay up to date on regulations.

Online training can help your workforce get caught up on regulatory training requirements or maybe even learn new skills without requiring large numbers of employees to congregate in one area. 

Transitioning your safety training to an online training program provides a wide range of benefits, for both your company and your employees.

employee accessing training on his cell phone

Increased flexibility allows users to complete their training from any location, meaning it doesn’t matter if you have employees in the office, at home or in the field. Additionally, you can introduce new information through pre-training before full training immersion takes place.

Accessibility options mean your employees don’t all have to be fluent in English — they can take training in their native language, which will help their understanding as well as their satisfaction. 

Staying compliant is crucial in any industry, and online training lets you know your training material is always up to date with safety regulations. Plus, it is easy to offer retraining for your employees over any topic you’d like.

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Now Is the Time To Take Safety Training

Despite the importance of completing training over safety topics, employers and employees alike often feel it takes time away from the job at hand. With online training, course completions can be done from any location, and what better time than when workers can’t fully do their normal jobs?

Many safety topics don’t require hands-on training and are perfectly suitable for online coursework, such as electrical safety or lockout/tagout. These are both training areas that affect a large number of employees but are easily offered through virtual training.

Additionally, while all personal protective equipment (PPE) should be tried on and tested before being used in the field, now is the perfect time to introduce, or reintroduce, all of your employees to the different types of PPE. Utilizing online training for PPE allows employees to become more comfortable with equipment they may encounter on the job.

Train Employees on Soft Skills
worker using tablet for training on soft skills

While safety topics are often crucial for a particular job, and for your employees and the company to meet regulatory compliance, there is an entirely different set of skills that create fully trained, well-rounded employees: Soft skills.

Employers often overlook the inclusion of soft skills in a training curriculum because they don’t seem to directly correlate with company performance or contribute to the bottom line. However, this is an inaccurate assumption. 

A study by researchers at Harvard University, Boston University and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business found that employees who received training on a variety of soft skills, including communication, time management and problem solving, helped grow productivity by 12%. Almost one year following training, the company’s return on investment was up 256%.

So what soft skills should you be training your employees on? There are a wide variety that can be useful, but here are a few universal soft skills that can help boost individual, team and company-wide performance.

Time management

It likely goes without saying that time management is a crucial skill every employee  should learn. Perhaps more than any other soft skill, this is one that can most directly affect a company’s bottom line. If workers cannot manage their own time well, they will likely be unproductive and waste the company’s time and resources.

Problem solving

Similar to time management, employees at any level should be able to demonstrate problem-solving skills. The basic tenets of problem solving are being able to assess a situation and find a solution. While some people are inherently good at creative thinking and others excel at critical thinking, problem-solving skills can be cultivated no matter what.


Strong communication skills are important both on and off the job. Think about all the interactions you have each day, from grabbing a morning coffee to meeting with clients or going out to eat. Speaking, body language and active listening are crucial for these encounters, but don’t forget about electronic communication as well, which is becoming increasingly common, even for formal communication.

Positive attitude

employee in a warehouse in a healthy work environment

You may consider positivity as relevant only to public-facing employees, such as those in customer service or hospitality roles, but positive attitudes throughout the company help keep employee morale up and create a healthy working environment.

As many employees take on fully remote or hybrid roles, these soft skills will become even more crucial, not only due to adjusting to new and potentially changing schedules, but also adjusting to less direct managerial oversight. Ensuring your employees have solid time management and communication skills, for example, will be imperative moving forward.

Including both hard skills and soft skills in your company’s training curriculum makes for well-rounded, satisfied employees, which leads to an efficient, productive company.

Safety Means Mental Health, Too

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults suffered from some type of mental illness in 2019, and the numbers have not improved since COVID-19 hit the United States in January 2020 and thrust millions of Americans into isolation, unemployment and illness.

In recent years, numerous studies have been conducted on mental health in adults, with most focusing on millennials (25-40 years old in 2021) and the adult segment of the Gen Z generation (18-24 years old). But studies have found that every working generation suffered from a mental health issue during the pandemic (71% of Gen Zers, 59% of millennials, 36% of Gen Xers and 22% of baby boomers).

Of course, every organization will have their own mental health-related issues to address, due to different company sizes, industries, jobsite setups and employee demographics. However, here are a few options that practically any workplace could look into implementing:

  • Let employees take mental health days
  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance
  • When possible, keep work at work
  • Provide mental health resources
  • Create and maintain quiet spaces

Mental health awareness should — without question — be part of your workplace culture and can easily be tied into any safety program. The best thing you can do is talk to your employees. Find out what their concerns are, work together to come up with solutions and be open in continuing discussions.

Understand OSHA Reporting

As with most government-related topics, OSHA recording and reporting requirements may seem complicated and overwhelming. However, it is often these types of topics where it is even more important to get things right, especially when it comes to COVID-19.

construction worker in mask recording on the job incident on computer

Knowing when to track incidents and what kinds of records you need to maintain can help your company meet OSHA compliance and, ideally, avoid costly fines. With OSHA records, there are three main terms you will come across:

Recording is simply the act of tracking an on-the-job injury or illness. There are multiple forms and logs that need to be filled out and maintained by each company, with different details required of each one.

Reporting means notifying OSHA of certain outcomes from occupational incidents, such as a death. These types of incidents must be reported within a certain timeframe, depending on the occurrence.

Submitting is similar to recording, in that this does not apply to all employers. However, for those that fall within the restrictions, there is a specific injury and illness form that needs to be electronically submitted to OSHA each year.

While it may go without saying, training your entire workforce not only helps to minimize safety risks, it also means you may be less likely to have an on-the-job incident that needs to be recorded.

Whether you have employees returning to the office and needing safety training refreshers, or you now have a remote workforce that may need training over cyber security issues, introducing online training allows employees — in any location — to receive the necessary safety training.

Start Training Remotely Today

For more than 30 years, SafetySkills has helped train employees around the world on both workplace and off-the-job hazards, along with numerous HR-compliant topics and valuable soft skills. All our training can be individually assigned so you can create a custom training program that can be completed at any time, from anywhere, on any device as long as the user has access to the internet.

Contact SafetySkills today to learn more about ensuring your employees can be productive and continue learning whether they are working from home or have returned to the normal workplace environment.

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